This is a compelling interjection I am making after reading Asia’s Songbird Regine Velasquez’s remark insulting the intelligence of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin when the latter said that the Philippines and China must not go to war over some kind of shellfish, but that China should just pay for it.
The bone of contention here is actually about the giant clams being harvested by China with impunity in the Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal), which the Philippines claims to be part of its territory. Note that this is the same controversial shoal that used to be the rich source of livelihood and haven for Filipino fishermen during inclement weather until China took control of it, claiming it as belonging to their territorial waters in the South China Sea (SCS).
“I am not going down in history as a clam defender, okay? It’s a complaint; we’re looking into it; but these are just fucking food; no one goes to war for clams (maybe Oysters of Locquemariaquer) but they just happen to be OUR food. They should pay for them like in fish market,” Locsin said.
This of course did not sit well for Velasquez especially that it sounded to her more like a sick joke coming from an intelligently irrepressible Locsin. I don’t think she has a clear knowledge of who Locsin is really.
“Ang akala ko pa naman matalino ka. Ako ay simpling tao lamang na may simpleng pagiisip,” Velasquez said in a tweet on Friday. (And I thought you were smart/clever. I am just a simple person with simple thoughts.)
“These people are invading our territory they are not just taking food sinisira nila ang ating karagatan!!!!” (…. they are destroying our seas!!!), she added.
Well, the reality is that having “simple thoughts” is what makes war, and that is precisely what Locsin is trying to avoid knowing both the economic and military might of China that our country is being subjected to.
Thus, it is best for the Songbird of Asia to just concentrate on what she does best and leave the diplomatic tussle to the knowledgeable. Her discordant voice in foreign relation is distasteful and therefore unwelcome, more so that her rhetoric has no basis at all.
The fact is that had the Aquino government in 2012 handled the Scarborough Shoal controversy against China with utmost prudence, the rich fishing ground of Panatag Shoal could still have been accessible to our fishermen today. Note that the shoal has also been the fishing grounds of Chinese fishermen and there existed a ‘peaceful coexistence’ between them until the Philippine Navy surveillance ship started flexing its muscles and ordered their sailors to board eight Chinese fishing vessels anchored in the shoal’s lagoon. They tried to arrest the Chinese fishermen for illegal fishing and “harvesting endangered marine species.” However, two China Maritime Surveillance (CMS) ships come to their rescue creating a standoff.
What made the standoff even unwise is when then President Aquino ordered the frigate BRP Gregorio del Pilar, a newly refurbished warship from the US Coast guard, to the area to confront the Chinese at Panatag.
What happened next was that more CMS ships entered the shoal, bringing with them a flotilla of 31 Chinese fishing boats and 50 dinghies. The number of CMS vessels in the days that followed increased to 10.
Outwitted, the the BRP Gregorio del Pilar left on the pretext that it was going “to replenish fuel and food provisions” in its base in La Union.But why send a warship when CMS vessels are officially civilian, part of its Ministry of Transport’s Maritime Safety Administration?
Since then no Filipino ship or fishing vessel has been able to enter the shoal, now occupied by CMS vessels and Chinese fishing boats. The Chinese imposed a 15-nautical mile restriction perimeter around the shoal, and prevents any vessel from going into the shoal’s lagoon.